Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev II: Fight Preview and Pick
On June 17, 2017 from “The Fight Capitol of the World” in Las Vegas, the world of boxing will run back a controversial bout – a super fight that is simply being called “The Rematch” – with the unified WBA, WBO, IBF, and vacant The Ring magazine light heavyweight (175-pound) titles on the line. It will be the first defense of the WBA, WBO, and IBF belts for California’s Ward.
The Russian “Krusher” is 5-1 one in his last six with both he and “S.O.G/Son of God” having been off since the two last met in November of 2016. Ward is perfect in his last six but took four of those wins based on points as opposed to Kovalev two KO/TKO and retirement victories. Add on top of this the fact that while the judges’ decision was unanimous in favor of Ward in their first contest, he was only separated from the challenger by a point on all scorecards (114-113 over a full 12 rounds.) The two were bound to face off once more, and here we are!
The two men are almost identical based on the tale of the tape and are both ranked #1 in their nations at light heavyweight with Kovalev just behind Ward at #2 worldwide. However, while Ward has been unbeaten thus far as a pro (31-0,) half of the Olympic gold medalist’s fights have gone the full distance while Kovalev (31-1-1, 26 KOs) has a KO/TKO rate of 81 percent per BoxRec.com. Neither man has suffered a stoppage.
Things also don’t look good for the defending Ward, who suffered a flash-knockdown that put him on all fours just two rounds into the meeting before he would clinch-fight for the remainder in a desperate effort to keep his belts. It was widely considered by the pundits of pugilism to be basically a wrestling match.
Part of the reason for this was that the knockdown Kovalev scored in the first bout was just the second time Ward had been dropped in his career.
Looking Ahead to “The Rematch”
The knock against both men across the board appears to be their age (34 for Kovalev, 33 for Ward.) Ward doesn’t have the speed that he used to and Kovalev appeared to only condition himself for a few opening rounds of cardio work. The reason that Ward’s grinding approach from in close worked was essentially the challenger’s failure in the gym.
Boxing legend Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins said:
“He fought a smart fight, perfect fight,” said Bernard Hopkins about Ward in his first fight against Kovalev…He made Sergey Kovalev fight a fight that no one had seen him fight in his 30-plus fights with almost 80 percent knockout ratio on his record. That was a game changer. He missed the opportunity…Anytime when you knock someone down, when you get them in that position, they don’t see another round. That might have messed with Kovalev’s psyche. “That was a hard shot I hit him with. Everybody else didn’t get up.”
With that aforementioned raw power and ensuring he can last longer though, Kovalev should be just fine. However, another possible problem that could come up again in the duo’s next go ‘round is that Kovalev needs a translator because he’s working with a non-Russian head trainer in John David Jackson. Granted, some fighters don’t always need a lot of help as they just bite down on their mouthpiece and come out of the corner swinging, but has any army on the front lines ever won without being able to communicate to basecamp? That answer is fairly obvious.
Why the Rivalry?
Perhaps the most interesting aspects of this bout is that it harkens back to boxing’s glory days of manliness/toughness as the main issue at hand (at least in the mind of the knockout artist in Kovalev) seems to be the approach of Ward, a man that the slight underdog previously called a “paper champion” (it will have been just shy of two years that Ward has actually finished a fight by the time the rematch takes place. His last stoppage was a TKO victory over Paul Smith on June 20, 2015.)
“He doesn’t deserve respect from me,” Kovalev said. “Of course, I had a chance to go for the kill. He grappled me and held me, keeping his head low. As a result, there wasn’t the time left. I tried to finish him off, but didn’t succeed. Since there had been one knockdown already, there could be more. There was nobody in the ring in the first 4 rounds. I didn’t feel it, but in the 5th round, my energy was finished. I finished the fight, all 12 rounds. But I don’t know how I managed the last 7 rounds. It was purely my willpower. That’s one thing. I simply overrated him.”
The X-Factors for a Kovalev Victory
This part of the pre-rematch breakdown is plain and simple: Cardio and the striking edge (see above) but as you can probably guess from the challenger’s comments, he’s either highly motivated or the champion is winning the mental game by a landslide. He will need to be tactical in a way apart from Ward – he needs to be tactical with his emotions, carefully choosing the moments (both physically and mentally) that he wants to explode. This could bluntly be called “controlled aggression,” also another reminder to train for more than a six-minute fight.
What Lies Ahead?
Kovalev could be the next in line to battle Adonis “Superman” Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs.) The two have metaphorically circled each other for some time but failed to do so in the ring as some appear to feel that the four-year WBC light heavyweight champion has been ducking Kovalev. At 39 (soon to be 40) years of age, Stevenson knows that this fight is a matter of now or never and has finally said that he would like to unify his belt with the winner of Ward-Kovalev II.
Stevenson has his own pay-per-view title fight rematch going down on Showtime tonight against Andrzej Fonfara (29-4, 17 KOs) tonight (June 3) at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. This next collision is waiting in the wings…